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05-20-2003

Clarkson Professor And Student Collaborate On Book Review

[A photo for publication is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/isis.jpg]

Clarkson University junior Thomas Berez (Holland Patent, N.Y.) will have something to put on his resume that few students have: a published article in the premier scholarly journal in the history of science.

Berez, a mechanical engineering major with a 4.0 grade point average, co-authored a book review with Liberal Arts Professor Sheila Weiss that will appear in the September 2003 issue of Isis: The Journal of the History of Science Society. Sheila Weiss and Thomas Berez

Berez’s analytical talents and interest in history were uncovered by Weiss this spring when Berez handed in his first paper for a history seminar on Nazi Germany. “I couldn’t believe the level,” said Weiss. “He was already doing graduate-level analysis. And the writing was flawless.”

The history seminar, “Nazi Germany,” used the book Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices, Legacies, edited by Francis Nicosia and Jonathan Huener (Berghahn: 2002), as one of its texts. Weiss invited Berez to review the book with her, addressing its usefulness as an undergraduate text.

“This journal does not typically publish reviews by graduate students, or faculty-student co-authors, let alone undergraduate students,” said Weiss. When Weiss informed Isis that she wanted to write a review with an undergraduate, the book review editor was at first surprised. Weiss assured her, however, “that she would not be disappointed.”  Based on that promise, the review editor was willing to make an exception, and she was extremely pleased with the final product.

For Berez, whose interests in the past have tended to focus on mechanical problem-solving, writing the review was an informative window into the nature of scholarly work. “It was a good experience for me, getting an idea of what it is like to collaborate on a project like this. It’s a challenge to take the work of two people and synthesize it into one article.”

Weiss explained that she and Berez were equal partners in the endeavor, and Berez’s perspective comes through clearly in the piece. “We divided up the review work and collaborated equally,” said Weiss.

“The combination of teaching and research is what makes the course special and effective,” added Weiss. “I want to make a difference for those students who really want to learn – those interested in having a special liberal arts experience at Clarkson. The students in this seminar did tremendous work. Yet even among these talented students, Tom stands out as truly exceptional. In my twenty-two years of teaching here, I have not met his equal, at least as far as his abilities in history and writing are concerned.”

In addition to his studies at Clarkson, Berez has taken part in the Formula SAE race car team and has worked as a tutor in the Writing Center for two years. He is considering a number of different paths after graduation, including law school or graduate studies in history or mechanical engineering. “It feels great to accomplish this,” Berez said of the Isis article. “It’s a real sense of a job well done.”

Weiss, a historian of science with a specialty in Nazi Germany and eugenics, teaches history in the School of Liberal Arts at Clarkson. In addition to having produced numerous publications, she is on the Academic Advisory Committee for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Exhibit on Nazi Racial Science.

Weiss received a fellowship from the Max Planck Society in Germany for the summer of 2003, during which she researched the history of the former Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics during the Third Reich – the institution with the infamous Josef Mengele and Auschwitz connection. This research provided the necessary background for a larger collaborative project aimed at placing the Institute in its international context.

“In order to determine what, if anything, was uniquely ‘Nazi’ about a scientific institute during the Third Reich, it is imperative that one compare that institute to similar non-German research centers,” said Weiss. “This is what my two collaborators and I have done.”

Weiss has been selected for a second Max Planck Fellowship this summer. This time, she plans to investigate the political function of international genetic/eugenic conferences during the Third Reich. She will also be in Berlin on a Max Planck Fellowship in the summer of 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION: Clarkson University Liberal Arts Professor Sheila Weiss (left) and junior Thomas Berez collaborated on a book review that will appear in the September 2003 issue of the scholarly journal Isis.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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